The quest for a four-peat begins this weekend.
It won’t be easy. It never is. But that’s the goal for Temple, which begins the Atlantic-10 tournament Friday against city rival La Salle in Atlantic City.
The No. 2 Owls (24-6) swept the Explorers (15-17) this season, winning 71-67 Feb. 2 at Tom Gola Arena and 90-82 last weekend at the Liacouras Center. The 10th-seeded Explorers advanced to the quarterfinals after a double-overtime victory at St. Bonaventure last Tuesday.
“The last game against La Salle, we played at a quicker pace,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “You can’t control the pace. The personality of each game will play itself out.”
Temple has won nine straight games at Boardwalk Hall, including three consecutive A-10 championships.
“I think our preparation and attitude is the same,” Dunphy said. “We have a tough first-round matchup with La Salle. Our kids and our coaching staff are excited for this game, and for the rest of the tournament.”
The Owls could receive an added boost with the return of Scootie Randall, who has missed the last five games with an injured foot. They are 4-1 without the 6-foot-6 guard, the team’s third-leading scorer at 11.6 points per game.
“He is day-to-day,” Dunphy said. “He’s looking better each day, but he hasn’t been through a practice yet, so it would be hard to put him in the game right away.”
Hyping up La Salle basketball
Temple is nationally ranked. Fine. But La Salle knows its A-10 and city rival inside and out.
“They’re a smart, tough team that wants to do the right things and not beat themselves,” La Salle coach Dr. John Giannini said.
Temple has already beaten La Salle twice this season, but the Explorers are playing at a higher level. The Owls know the third time won’t be a cakewalk.
“I think La Salle is playing about their best basketball of the year,” said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. “We better match that.”